"Could be devastating": Indicted ex-GOP chair "explicitly" throws Trump under the bus in new filing

David Shafer, who added his mugshot to his Twitter bio, says Trump directed fake elector scheme

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published August 23, 2023 11:22AM (EDT)

Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party David Shafer speaks at a fundraising dinner during the Georgia Republican Party's state convention on Friday, June 9, 2023 in Columbus, GA. (Cheney Orr for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party David Shafer speaks at a fundraising dinner during the Georgia Republican Party's state convention on Friday, June 9, 2023 in Columbus, GA. (Cheney Orr for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

David Shafer, a former chairman of Georgia's Republican Party and one of the 19 people charged in the Georgia 2020 election interference case, claimed in a Monday court filing that he and the other Republican electors who attempted to falsely certify a victory for Donald Trump were acting at the direction of the former president.

As defendants in the far-reaching indictment begin to surrender to authorities ahead of the Friday deadline, "Shafer's position signals that some may be poised to turn on the former president," Axios reports.

"Mr. Shafer and the other Republican Electors in the 2020 election acted at the direction of the incumbent President and other federal officials," lawyers for the former GOP chairman wrote in the filing. 

"Attorneys for the President and Mr. Shafer specifically instructed Mr. Shafer, verbally and in writing, that the Republican electors' meeting and casting their ballots on December 14, 2020 was consistent with counsels' advice and was necessary to preserve the presidential election contest," they added.

Shafer and 15 other Republican electors met at Georgia's capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, and signed a document falsely declaring that Trump had won the state. Shafer had portrayed himself as the "chairperson" of Georgia's Electoral College and filed a fake slate of 16 pro-Trump electors in December 2020, according to The New York Times.

Shafer is facing eight charges in the Georgia indictment, including false statements and writings, forgery in the first degree and impersonating a public officer. In addition to some of the electors and a slew of other alleged conspirators, Trump and several of his former attorneys have also been charged in relation to their alleged roles in attempting to subvert the election results. 

The former Republican party chair — like co-defendants Jeffrey Clark and Mark Meadows — is trying to have his state-level case transferred to federal court, which would place the case under the authority of a federal judge and potentially pull a more sympathetic jury pool.

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Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, told CNN that the filing "could be devastating for the former president." 

"Shafer explicitly places explicitly places the entire responsibility for the fake electoral scheme squarely on Donald Trump," Cunningham explained. "He says, 'I was acting at his personal direction.' He does that because he's trying to get into federal court under a law that says even if you're not an officer of the United States, if you are acting under the officer's direction, you can get to federal court. He is making that statement to get to federal court, but at the same time implicating Trump directly in the fake elector scheme."

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Shafer also gained widespread attention on social media early Wednesday morning when he posted his own mugshot to X and made it his profile picture after surrendering to Fulton County authorities overnight.

He was one of two defendants to turn themselves in early Wednesday. Former Coffee County GOP Chair Cathy Latham, who is alleged to have partaken in an effort to copy sensitive election software in January 2021 and was also one of the 16 fake electors, is the other.

According to 11Alive, as of 11 a.m. ET on Aug. 23, six total defendants have surrendered to authorities in Fulton County with Ray Smith, a Georgia attorney charged for his alleged role in gathering witnesses to provide testimony before state legislative subcommittee hearings held in December 2020, and Trump-aligned lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, one of the alleged "architects" of the plot, most recently joining the count later Wednesday morning.

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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